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Ignition interlock a required part of DWI sentencing

November 13, 2010
Adirondack Daily Enterprise

New York state has taken another important step to further deter driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated.

Anyone sentenced on or after Aug. 15 of this year as the result of a conviction of sections 1192(2) or (3) (driving with 0.08 percent blood alcohol content or while intoxicated) must be sentenced to a conditional discharge or probation, a condition of which must be the installation and use of an ignition interlock device in all motor vehicles owned or operated by such person.

The convicted motorist has 10 business days from the date sentence is imposed to install the interlock device in motor vehicles he/she owns or operates.

If there are two vehicles in the family, even though the offender generally drives only one of them, the interlocking device must be installed in both vehicles. The cost of the installation is borne by the offender and consists of an installation fee plus a monthly fee. These costs exceed $1,000 per vehicle.

An ignition interlock is a breath- alcohol detector connected to the ignition system of a motor vehicle. The vehicle operator must take and pass a breath test, at which time the interlock will allow the vehicle to be started. When the vehicle is in operation, the device requires a retest approximately every 30 minutes and can be easily and safely completed while driving, or if preferred, the driver may pull over for the retest - you have several minutes to complete the retest before alarms sound.

The interlock contains a data logging feature that records all breath tests, instances where the vehicle was started, running retests, and any violations. It also contains a camera for positive identification. For start-up and for continuing tests, the operator and the testing device must be within the view of the camera. The simple five-second test is easily delivered and analyzed for alcohol content. All test results are stored along with the photograph, date and time.

Can the interlock device's operation be circumvented? The answer is partially yes, but you won't get away with it for long. If the vehicle has been started without a valid test, "hot wired" for example, the alarm horn will start honking and a "start violation" will be recorded. If someone else took the start-up test, the camera will record that person, and when the unit requests a retest and it is ignored or failed, the horn will honk until the vehicle is turned off.

Furthermore, a balloon or other air source won't work either as the devices have anti-circumvention techniques which cause the interlock to abort artificial breath samples. Neither can the vehicle be left running outside of a bar because of the retest requirement. The best solution is to not drink and drive - then you won't get into a predicament where you will have to install the interlock device.

For more articles on vehicle and traffic law and safety, visit the Traffic Safety Board website at

Dave Werner can be reached at



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